A look at Asia Pacific and where it stands.

In early 2020, SITE Foundation commissioned 3 in-depth reports on data emerging from the Incentive Travel Industry Index which took place in late 2019. The world was a different place then, and Incentive Travel was going through a period of expansion, and steady growth. The future looked bright as destinations jostled for consideration, and the old ways of doing business were being questioned through innovative newbies, plenty of creative zeal, and technological development. Nowhere was this more apparent than in Asia Pacific, where Corporate Buyers in particular predicted massive growth, at twice the rate of North American peers and three times the rate of Europe!

SITE asked Andrea Teo from Pacific World to give her insights into the report, and to see if, or how, these incredible insights can be relevant in today’s much changed landscape.

Glimpses from the 2019 Report into a Post-Covid or Covid-Now World

Unprecedented. Pivotal. Virtual.

Seeing these 3 words is akin to watching reruns of a TV show, except that they are a stark reminder of a world that has been massively disrupted. Without a clear end in sight, a mix of research data, combined with educated guesses, serve as a good springboard to the way forward. Despite it being written during a time when the world was a better place, the 2019 Asia Pacific report presents some key points that still remain applicable and perhaps, even more so than ever.

Shift to Soft-power Metrics

While there is still some way to go, the shift towards soft-power metrics is undeniable. Relationship-building now sits firmly in the top 5 benefits of incentive travel, reinforcing what Aristotle once wrote – “Man is by nature a social animal”. Having being forced indoors for weeks on end, with major restrictions on social gatherings, the craving for human connection is amplified. This is most certainly something to work on during this crisis – the strengthening of existing relationships, through genuine care.

Importance of Program Content

With Asian buyers being more particular about a program’s content than the quality of transport and accommodation (two elements which currently don’t apply anyway), the focus should be firmly on perfecting Experience Design for remote delivery. Of course, an actual incentive can never be replicated without it being in-destination, but a well-thought-out virtual experience, supplemented with physical items, can still translate into an impressionable break from workday monotony.

Growth, Technological Prowess, and DMO Reliance

The predicted growth of incentive travel in Asia, whilst hampered by Covid-19, still remains plausible. Why is that? Asian destinations are actively inching towards reopening domestically and results have been met with a certain degree of success and stability. The high adoption rate of technology that already existed in Asia prior to Covid-19 is also a huge advantage in an environment where technology plays a critical role in reducing touch points and improving risk management. Asian Buyers are also no stranger to including emerging technology into their programs; and with health and safety being a top consideration, it’s certainly a key point of consideration when it comes to destination selection. Looking ahead to better days when travel resumes, I also believe the high reliance on DMOs in Asia is only going to strengthen, as buyers will require advice and support on health and safety protocols, and more.

Beaten, but not defeated.

These are, indeed, very tough times for an industry that is all about face-to-face and physical experiences. However, we are resilient. Stories of change and ingenuity prevail as businesses continue to adapt to the changing environment. Asia Pacific has a very special place in the global Incentive Travel Industry, a position that is clearly outlined in the Asia Pacific cut of the most recent ITII survey. While things have definitely gone off track in the past 6 months, I firmly believe that the Asia Pacific incentive industry will find its way again and continue to grow and evolve well into the future.

Andrea Teo, CMP, CIS, Head of Pacific World, Singapore

Andrea Teo, Head of Pacific World

To discover more about the trends and statistics unveiled in the ITII survey reports, click here to download your own complimentary copy.